MONCTON – The national tug-of-war for post-secondary school graduates will force all of Canada’s provinces to start handing out generous grants and tax incentives, analysts say.

The province of Saskatchewan has announced it will pay $20,000 to university and college graduates who relocate to that province for at least seven years.

The move matches a New Brunswick tax incentive for post-secondary students that was enhanced in last week’s budget.

The developments come just days before several provinces, in desperate need of workers, send large delegations to a national job fair in Toronto.

New Brunswick will join other provinces at the National Job Fair and Training Expo on Tuesday and Wednesday, armed with a list of incentives and reasons to lure workers east.

“There are many employers now in New Brunswick who need workers,” Greg Byrne, minister responsible for the Population Growth Secretariat, said Thursday.

“With the jobs available in our province now, and with more new jobs on the horizon, New Brunswick is truly the place to be for people who want to start or continue a dynamic career.”

New Brunswick will send it’s largest-ever delegation of 14 companies and organizations on the recruitment mission.

“Welcome to the realities of the demographic shift,” said Charles Cirtwill, executive vice-president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.

“People are going to get workers and it is going to start as it is, at the high end. You are going to see every province, have or have not, aggressively trying to get people back.”

The 2009-’10 provincial budget doubled the New Brunswick maximum lifetime tuition rebate from $10,000 to $20,000 and the maximum annual rebate from $2,000 to $4,000.

Under the province’s program, anyone who paid tuition, graduated from an eligible post-secondary institution, lives and works in New Brunswick and pays New Brunswick personal income tax, is eligible for a rebate of 50 per cent of their tuition costs.

Saskatchewan has a tax break system to keep grads at home, but it is now extending incentives to outsiders. Nova Scotia also has incentives for students graduating elsewhere.

“We are in the throes of a labour shortage and the economic downturn actually is a boon because it gives us a little extra time to deal with it,” Cirtwill said.

“The simple fact is that we built a quality of life that requires a certain number of people working to sustain it and we don’t have those numbers based on our birthrate, so we need to find a way to get more people to go.”

University, community college and skilled trades workers already have financial incentives to work, but Cirtwill said that list will soon expand dramatically.

“This is going to trickle down and there is going to be incentives and encouragement for everybody in the economic and social spectrum,” he said.

Basu Sharma, professor of industrial relations and human resources management at the University of New Brunswick, said it’s important for New Brunswick to at least match incentives offered by other provinces and then pull ahead on quality of life issues.

“Unless you create incentives for people to relocate there is no reason for them to move,” he said. “If Saskatchewan is doing something, people are not simply going to come to New Brunswick. There has to be an attraction factor.

“If you match, then they can make that decision on whether it is a nice place to live.”

A spokesman for the Population Growth Secretariat said that although Saskatchewan has matched financial incentives, New Brunswick will sell the province’s quality of life, low crime rate and cheaper cost of living.

In a study by Business Magazine comparing business costs, costs of living, building permit growth, unemployment and crime rates, Moncton ranks fifth overall. Saint John ranks sixth in operating costs, and third in cost of living.

New Brunswick will have more than 15 booths at the fair running March 31 and April 1 including representation from the Population Growth Secretariat, Malley Industries, Atlantic Lottery, NB Power and SwiftHire Corporation.

The City of Moncton also will be there to aid Hub City businesses.

“It’s one thing for a job seeker to speak the employer and hear about the breaks, but then they are always left with ‘what is Moncton like?’ said Kevin Silliker, business development officer for the City of Moncton.

“Recruitment has evolved. With worker shortage, people have the choice of moving to the community that they want to.”